It's been almost a year since I've seen him. I suspected at the time that he was using. But it didn't matter. Whenever he came to the art studio, he was sober. And that was the only prerequisite.
Twenty-something, he's talented. Gifted. Plays a mean keyboard. But he was always jittery. Always moving about.
I saw him yesterday for the first time in months. He greeted me with a big smile. Hug. "You got my message?"
He is grounded. Present. Eyes clear. Voice strong.
Oh, I replied. Was that you? I didn't quite get your name when you left the message.
Oh. No problem, he replied. I just wanted to make sure the singing group met today for sure. Didn't want to trek on down here just to find out there was no singing.
He laughed. I've been singing all day. If only to keep myself awake. I didn't sleep last night. Forgot to take my medication. Man. I had the wildest dreams. Dreamt I was taking a bike trip across Canada. Just might do that. This summer. Travel across the country on my bike. Pedal bike that is. Two wheeler. And he laughs again.
Where are you staying? I ask.
My aunt's, he replies. Deep south [of the city]. Subway takes me right to her place practically. It's good man. I've been sober. Two months. Three days.
I congratulate him. Tell him I'm pleased for him.
And I am.
When he was around last year, he never acknowledged he was using. Anything. Crack mostly. But sometimes, whatever he could get his hands on. He never admitted it was a problem and in his denial, the problem grew.
He left. Not to disappear, but rather to go to Rehab.
And now he's sober. Two months. three days.
I'm doing great, he tells me. It's good to see you.
It's good to see you too, I tell him.
And he begins to sing.
Louder than before. More confident. More present than in the past. His voice is pure. Deep. Tenor. It's different than before. It has a richness, a depth that was lacking.
He sings and as I watch, a smile appears on his face. His body moves to the rhythm and he rocks back and forth, eyes closed. Singing his heart out.
It is a beautiful sight. A beautiful sound.
I'm glad he's doing well. Glad he's back. But not staying at the shelter any longer. He needs to be away. Keep his space.
I'm good, he says. All's good. Nice to see you Louise. It's real nice.
And I think, it's the first time I've ever heard him use my name.
And I am glad. It's nice to see him. Nice to know he's doing well. Nice to see his eyes so clear. Hear his voice so strong. Know he's on his path and staying true to all he can be when he let's go of what was and takes good care of himself today.
It's nice to hear him sing.